Unrivalled online retailer Amazon.com recently obtained a patent for “anticipatory shipping” and announced its plans to launch a system that, if successful, would dramatically shorten its customer order fulfilment.
So just how can Amazon anticipate customers purchases?Amazon has used large amounts of consumer information that it has gathered over the years to create a database of its customer’s buying habits. This data will enable them to anticipate products that their customers will want to buy and have the items picked and packed before they have even been ordered.
They will then be stationed in warehouses, and apparently on some occasions, actually in delivery trucks waiting for the green light before being delivered to the customer.
It’s an interesting and unnerving thought for many consumers – on the one hand, the promise of even faster delivery is a positive aspect. Same day delivery is available for a lot of products, but not all, and usually not for large or unusual purchases.
Yet one of the negative sides is that Amazon is gathering information on consumers, often without their knowledge.
The company collects the information through a customer’s previous orders, searches and wish lists as well as monitoring how long a customer hovers over a certain item with the mouse.
Many have pointed out that essentially ‘guessing’ what customers want could lead to unwanted deliveries and huge losses in profits, but Amazon insists that such occasions would simply be a gesture of goodwill.
Order fulfilment is one of the biggest parts of the global supply chain, both financially and logistically. It requires a monumental team effort and even the smallest of mistakes can have a knock on effect, costing companies time and money.
With the new patent, other retailers and distributors will have to step their game up where order fulfilment is concerned if they are to keep up with Amazon’s anticipatory shipping.
Although no one is sure when Amazon is planning to launch its new system, it will be testing it out in the U.S to see how it fares before rolling it out to other countries. But whether this will encourage other big retailers to follow in their footsteps is difficult to say.